HOPE THERE'S NO CALL QUEUE

French workers are starting to take the talking cure. A major managers union, the CFE-CGC, has just instituted a 24-hour telephone help line staffed by psychologists who can counsel members stressed out by the low pay, layoffs, pushy customers, demanding bosses and defiant underlings that sometimes come with those middle-management jobs.

The help line was originally set up simply to serve stressed-out bankers, who responded with enough fervor that the program was expanded to all 35,000 union members. In 2004, the first year it was running, it logged almost 2,800 calls, the vast majority of which consisted of workers in distress over job-related worries. A sizable minority called to talk about spouses, kids, illnesses and other personal problems.

The company running the help line, Psya, modeled its program after successful U.S. employee-assistance programs. Some of them say they've been getting an unusually heavy workout lately, too: phones haven't stopped ringing at the Association of Flight Attendants, says director Heather Healy. Her callers complain about the whole mix of working for bankrupt companies: longer work schedules, smaller paychecks, reduced mental-health benefits and, most stressful of all, marriages to spouses who often work for the same airline and have the same agita.

HOPE THERE'S NO CALL QUEUE | News